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History of Varanasi
Ghats of Ganges, Varanasi The land of Varanasi (Kashi) has been the ultimate pilgrimage spot for Hindus for ages. Often referred to as Banaras, Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world. These few lines by Mark Twain say it all: "Banaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together". Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. Abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the origins of Varanasi are yet unknown. Ganges in Varanasi is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals.

Ganges is said to have its origins in the tresses of Lord Shiva and in Varanasi, it expands to the mighty river that we know of. The city is a center of learning and civilization for over 3000 years. With Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, just 10 km away, Varanasi has been a symbol of Hindu renaissance. Knowledge, philosophy, culture, devotion to Gods, Indian arts and crafts have all flourished here for centuries. Also a pilgrimage place for Jains, Varanasi is believed to be the birthplace of Parsvanath, the twenty-third Tirthankar.

Vaishnavism and Shaivism have co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously. With a number of temples, Mrs. Annie Besant chose Varanasi as the home for her 'Theosophical Society' and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, to institute 'Banaras Hindu University, the biggest University in Asia. Ayurveda is said to be originated at Varanasi and is believed to be the basis of modern medical sciences such as Plastic surgery, Cataract and Calculus operations. Maharshi Patanjali, the preceptor of Ayurveda and Yoga, was also affiliated with Varanasi, the holy city. Varanasi is also famous for its trade and commerce, especially for the finest silks and gold and silver brocades, since the early days.

Varanasi has also been a great center of learning for ages. Varanasi is associated with promotion of spiritualism, mysticism, Sanskrit, yoga and Hindi language and honored authors such as the ever-famous novelist Prem Chand and Tulsi Das, the famous saint-poet who wrote Ram Charit Manas. Aptly called as the cultural capital of India, Varanasi has provided the right platform for all cultural activities to flourish. Many exponents of dance and music have come from Varanasi. Ravi Shankar, the internationally renowned Sitar maestro and Ustad Bismillah Khan, (the famous Shehnai player) are all sons of the blessed city or have lived here for major part of their lives.

Art & Culture of Varanasi
Silk Banaras, Varanasi The art and culture of Varanasi is unique. It is the rich cultural tradition of Varanasi that makes it the cultural capital of India. A combination of archaeology, mythology, geography, art and history makes Varanasi a great center of Indian culture. Though Varanasi is associated mainly with Hinduism and Buddhism but one can find glimpse of many religious beliefs, types of worship and religious institutions at Varanasi. It is amazing to see the primitive worship cults being practiced at Varanasi.

Varanasi presents a complete museum of Indian art and culture. At Varanasi one can feel the changing patterns and movements in course of history. It has a rich and unique style of art forms and folk art. For centuries, Varanasi has produced master craftsmen and earned name and fame for its beautiful Sarees, handicrafts, textiles, toys, ornaments, metal work, clay and woodwork and other crafts.

Since ancient times, Varanasi has been the Capital of all knowledge (sarva Vidya ki Rajdhani). Varanasi has produced numerous famous scholars and intellectuals, who have left their mark in respective fields of activity. Varanasi is home to numerous universities, college, schools, Madarsas and Pathshalas and the Guru Shishya tradition still continue in many institutions. The literary tradition of languages, dialects, newspapers, magazines and libraries continue to even this day.

Varanasi presents a unique social and cultural fabric. Cultural and linguist pluralism and various ethnic groups are so very eternal to the holy city, Varanasi. At Varanasi one gets to explore the city of affluence, intellectuals, oral traditions, castes and customs, personalities, professions and communal harmony. There is another interesting facet to Varanasi, where one gets to enjoy Banarasi pans, Thandai, Gamcha, Bahri Alang and Mauj Masti.

Music, drama and entertainment are all synonymous with Varanasi. Banaras has long been famous for its music, both vocal and instrumental and has its own dance traditions. Add to this, Varanasi has a very rich stock of folk music and drama (esp. Ramlila), fairs and festival and the rich tradition of akharas, games and sports. All these combine together to give a distinct look to the city of moksha, Varanasi.

How To Reach Varanasi
How To Reach Varanasi, Varanasi is the cultural capital of India and the melting pot of Indian civilization. Varanasi or Banaras has a well-developed transport network and is well connected to all the major Indian cities and states by air, road and rail.

By Air
Varanasi is well connected and accessible to major Indian cities and tourist spots. There are daily domestic flights to and from Varanasi to several cities in India. Apart from the state owned Indian Airlines, there are many private air taxi operators that offer their services from Varanasi to other Indian cities. In fact, the daily flights on Delhi-Agra-Khajuraho-Varanasi route are quite popular among the tourists.

By Rail
Since Varanasi lies in the heartland of the North Indian plains, it is well connected to Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and other parts of India. There are two railway stations in Varanasi, the Kashi Junction and the Varanasi Junction (also known as Varanasi Cantonment). Rajdhani Express from Delhi or from Calcutta passes through Varanasi too. One can also catch trains from Mughalsarai, just 10 km south of Varanasi.

By Road
Situated in the flat Ganga plains, Varanasi has a good network of roads. Frequent public and private buses and road transport to all the major towns of Uttar Pradesh and nearby areas.
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